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K’s big birthday gratitude project

I have a hunch that giving thanks, expressing my deep gratitude – for anything and everything, for anyone and everyone – is the ideal way to heal, to be whole.

all images by Kate Kennington Steer

Not a jumble-sale rummage,

elbows out, frantically carving one’s niche

amongst the pot-luck, wholesale 

throwing-out expense of energy;

smaller than that.

One step equals one unnoticed act,

equals one creation, one gift,

one intention, one thought,

one prayer, one relinquishing,

one blessing of releasing

burden or bounty: all that holds

back, weighs heavy – the deadwood hollowed

beyond being useful as a JoySpark,

a welcome pack, a conduit to praising

Maker, Giver, Grower.  Slowly.  Slowly,

silently, space emerges

from thanksgiving’s awareness, seeking

a right-full home.  Here, or there – 

now, or then – dropped rocks ripple,

pebblesplash eases out widdishins-wise,

a quiet deceleration, a caressed loss of momentum,

yet with energy sufficient, still, to reach

as a tap on a shoulder,

a turning:

a placing in open hands

of a single, unique shaving of abundance;

never nullifying, only magnifying,

never lessening, only multiplying …

‘pare’

Kate Kennington Steer

18.4.22 

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.

John Milton

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be 

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few 

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t 

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which 

another voice may speak.

‘Praying’

Mary Oliver

 

Where to start saying how grateful I am for the existence of the charity Creative Response (Arts)?  Since 2010 the arts workers and leaders have provided a safe harbour for me to grow my own wellbeing; they have provided a vibrant community of participants from all walks of life, and with all sorts of diagnoses, physical and mental, for me to meet, mingle and befriend; they have taught me new skills; they have shared their knowledge so generously; they have – above all – encouraged me into believing I am an artist, I am a poet, I am a printmaker, I am a photographer, I am a creative working across a variety of media, and it is ok not to be a specialist!  

As I wrote in August 2016:

Creative Response is my lifeline.  I have had M.E. for over 25 years and am a wheelchair user, and it is often difficult for me to get out and about, to see many people, or to practice my creativity in the way I would like.  I also struggle with clinical depression.  Over several years now, CR has given me an outlet to play with different art media (I am at my happiest when my hands are messy!) and a chance to have some regular social contact .  The CR sessions remind me of who I am – as a whole person as well as an artist – even if there are weeks when I am not well enough to participate.  The various practitioners who facilitate the sessions have been superb in their encouragement to ‘just try and see’, ‘just have a go’.  They could not have been kinder in dealing with my condition and their generosity in sharing their expertise never fails to astonish me.

This all remains true in 2022!  CR gives me the confidence to say: I am a writer, a contemplative photographer, and a visual artist who cannot stop creating … and this is still who I am when I have ‘nothing to show for myself, when I have not ‘produced’ anything – let alone ‘made art’ – for months.  CR helps me remember that I am a ‘creative’ even if I have been bed-bound for weeks, or am so exhausted I can barely sit up for 30 minutes, or if I cannot find the energy to make a line on a piece of paper, or I am rendered temporarily mute by seizures, unable utter a coherent thought and remember it long enough to write it down. 

So this is why, for the month of May 2022, as I celebrate my 50th birthday, I am launching a fundraising campaign for Creative Response.  I know that there are many people in the UK (and elsewhere) for whom money is becoming increasingly tight at the moment, and believe me, I get how hard it is to keep giving financially in the face of alarming energy bills, or being in dire straits when a car fails and a computer crashes.  But …. personally, I believe the extremely small amounts of money I give to a few select charities does help me remember I am connected to others.  Small acts of financial giving helps me grow my ‘compassion muscle’, which withers quickly in the face of being housebound for a while, or when depression’s isolating grip is deep and strong.  It is at those times when giving away money becomes one of the very few life-decisions I can control, because I feel I have no other way to give – or nothing to give – to others.  Thanks to the care and support CR gives me, moments like those are getting more infrequent.

If you can, (and only if you can, this is not a guilt trip!) please give £5 (or more, but even £5 will buy a tub of acrylic paint or a couple of bits of lino or two paint brushes or a pack of pencils; or £5 helps pay for an arts therapy worker to sit with one who struggle physically or mentally and facilitate their innate creativity to ease and express their pains and their joys).

Here is the link to ‘K’s gratitude project’ via Paypal (you also have the option to pay via credit card via this same link):

go to https://creativeresponsearts.org

and click the DONATE button

I write this with so many thanks, in advance, for your generosity.  I know many of you who cannot give financially will give your thoughts and prayers to this project. Those thoughts and prayers are also incredibly precious.  They strengthen the connections between us, expressing our common humanity.  They declare the need for art to speak truth, to speak peace as well as justice, and the need for all art to teach us how to be present to what is before each of us now, to see that we are not alone in feeling alone, to give us space so we can be grateful, and prompt us to turn that contemplative moment of thanksgiving into an active moment of help for the person next to us.  It is possible to grow hope, to grow love, to grow community; despair never needs to have the last word when it can be healed by a scribble, a blob of paint, a pile of clay, a pot of earth, a jumble of wool, a rip of fabric, a pin-hole camera and a safe space to play.

Attention is that doorway to gratitude, the doorway to wonder, the doorway to reciprocity.

from The Art of Noticing, Rob Walker

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be 

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few 

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t 

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which 

another voice may speak.

‘Praying’

Mary Oliver

It is possible to grow hope, to grow love, to grow community; despair never needs to have the last word. 

gospel 8: My signs

Mark 16.15-20

I AM Good. I AM News to be proclaimed.  Use the GoodName of I AM for it has power to transfigure and transform, power to reach all peoples in all places.  I AM accompanies you.  I AM your Companion as you share Me.  I AM your Companion as you speak about Me, of Me, with Me, in Me.  I AM your Companion as you touch others in healing so you too might be healed, might be restored, might be recovered.  How do you know the I AM is with you in all this?  See My Signs next to you – everywhere.  Everything declares I AM.  So let Me work with you so you can see, then you can show others where, how, who I AM.  I AM Sun, Moon and Stars.  I AM Night.  I AM Day.  I AM Colour.  I AM Salt of the Earth.  I AM Bread of Life.  I AM House of Light.  I AM Home in the Dark.  Hear Me in Brian Blessed’s bellows of poetry and prophecy.  Hear Me in the quiet shush of a hairbrush caressing a precious head.  See Me as the Child hesitating, contemplating her next important step.  See My Symbols arise from keyboard clicks, read My Revelations in the fingers’ moves, in the nails’ dance.  I AM Detail.  I AM Creator.  So watch My Radar, seek My protection from the coming storms.  I AM Paint Splash.  I AM Rest.  I AM your Support.  I AM Grafitti on a foreign wall screaming stories from voiceless victims.  I AM Simplicity.  I AM Raindrop.  I AM Hands reaching high for help.  I AM Care Package.  I AM First Aid.  I AM Charity.  I AM Supplier of all your needs.  I AM the Cleaner willing you to see your colour under your grime.  I AM Joker, displaying the true worth of your cravings for status and possessions.  I AM Sight in, for, your sore eyes.  I AM Teacher.  I AM Riddler.  I AM Questioner.  I AM Answer.  I AM your Hands.  Your Times are in My Hands.  I AM not gone; I AM Here.  Go: I AM working with you, and you can make it look like I AM.

gospel 7: take & give

Mark 14. 12-16, 22-26

I AM the Giver so take of Me.  I AM the Giver so give from Me.  I AM your hands so receive and distribute My blessings.  I AM giving you what you need, all the time, so take from Me – then give what others need, all the time.  Take from My Hands and give to one another’s hands, for I AM in the giving and in the taking.  I AM the Exchanger and the Exchanged.  I AM poured out for you, so you can pour me out to many.  Take what I AM offering to you of Myself:

I AM light-bringing. I AM coin-spending. I AM wind-whirling. I AM flavour-savouring. I AM tea-drinking. I AM food-distributing. I AM water-cleansing. I AM dirt-peeling. I AM pollen-gathering. I AM whisper-listening, I AM paint-brushing, I AM colour-spreading.  I AM laughter-bubbling.  I AM friend-sharing.  I AM surprise-giving.  I AM landscape-unfurling. I AM delight-bringing. I AM power-providing. I AM inspiration-exploding. I AM silence-presencing. I AM wave-watching. I AM staff-protecting. I AM hand-holding.  I AM strength-providing. I AM Wisdom-enlightening. I AM book-worming. I AM story-telling. I AM song-singing. I AM bread-breaking. I AM wine-flowing. I AM beauty-bearing before you.  I AM the frame for all that is; for all that is, I AM.  I AM asking you: Take all I AM.  I AM begging you: Give all I AM.

gospel 6: Be on the watch for Me.

Mark 13.33-37

Aware of who I AM? 

Awake to where I AM?

Look.  I AM the ColourSwirler.  I AM the LightBearer.  I AM the StarGuider.  I AM the PrayerReceiver.  I AM the ViewFinder.  I AM the HealthBringer.  I AM the WisdomKeeper.

Look. I AM in the eyes of the poor.  

Look. I AM reflected in the eyes of the elderly.  

Look. I AM perfected by the eyes of the child.

Look up. I AM the WindHoverer.

Look out.  I AM the BeamDeliverer.

Look up and out.  I AM the ShieldSteadier.  I AM the ProtectionCoverer.  I AM the RescueRemedy.  I AM the GuardianGreeter.  I AM the NewsGatherer.  I AM the InformationCollector.  I AM the WeatherWarner.  I AM the BroadCaster.  I AM the SignalSender.

Look.  I AM rising in the East.  

Look.  I AM moving in the South.  

Listen.  I AM whispering in the North.  

Listen.  I AM singing in the West.

Look through with Me: I AM the NightsEyes.  I AM the RestEaser.  I AM the DreamDelighter.  

Look down with Me: I AM the MudSquelcher. I AM the WellingtonBootDancer. I AM the PuddleJumper. I AM the DirtPieMaker. I AM the SoilTreasurer.

Look below with Me: I AM theEarthMover. I AM the DarkMiner. I AM the TrackBetween. I AM the LineLaidAlong. I AM the TunnelTraveller.

Look along with Me: I Am the TimeWeaver.  I AM the ThreadIntwiner.  I AM the Warp and the Weft.  I AM the PatternPlayer.  I AM the ShapeBinder.  I AM the HandHolder.  I AM the FingerShaper.  I AM the WorkAllocator.  I AM the JobProvider.  I AM the SkillSharer.  I AM the OpportunityCreator.

Look.  I AM the DoorWay. I AM the Threshold.  I AM the ArchShaper.  I AM the KeyHolder.

Look.  I AM the StemGrower.  I AM the LeafGreener.  I AM the AbundanceGiver.  I AM the FreshBrancher.  I AM the BlossomBringer.  I AM the FruitFormer.  I AM the NewComer.  I AM the ReliableReturner.

Who do you say I AM?  

Where do you look for Me?  

What do you hear Me tell you?

You do not know?

Look. Look in. Watch. Inside of you I AM.

gospel 5. be. here. listen.

Mark 9.2-10

I AM the leap. I AM the ice cold air you gasp in on take-off.  I AM the muscles which lift you, the limbs which bend, flex and fly free.  I AM the gravity which holds you safe and brings you back down to earth.  I AM the same whether this leap springs from your mind or body.  I AM the exhilaration.  I AM the dance and I AM the dancer, concentrating all her will and skill into this solo jump toward Me.  I AM the drumbeat echoing amongst ancient rocks, the pounding in the blood, the thrumming repetition that here be your stuff of life.  I AM beneath the clamour of the Battle Cry you sound in attack or defence.  I AM the fear you try to disguise with noise.  I AM the tags you paint on your concrete cave walls, the secret language some call desecration, others decoration, others poetry in symbol, others still a claiming of the land, demarcating the borders of the territory of modernity, for My sake.  I AM waiting below the clashing, flashing, whirring, clacking of the shutters, a hungering horde slavering for the soundbite, unable to hear the substance.  I AM the feathered frenzy of cheeps and calls which respond to your tending, those sounds so redolent of a particular place and time in your memory of a moment when you fully attended their subtle glories.  I AM the cry of pain your body gives to recall you from living in your fantastic fabulations which spin you far into the past or future.  I AM every knot and tug, every cramp and cut, every cell supplicating for self-compassion, for you to treat yourself as the infinitely valuable, infinitely beloved child you are.  I AM the one who holds you by the hand wherever you walk, taking you towards sights that will thrill you, even those you ignore at the end of your street.  I AM that light which shines on you and yours, revealing a multitude of messages in each tone and hue and shade of colour.  I AM the voices of the past who visit you so you may hear the story from their point of you,, so your compassion for your ancestors can be activated.  I AM the cloud of witnesses, I AM the communion of saints who have gone before you, whose presence surrounds, protects and guides, by means visible and invisible.  I AM those places whose names you cannot pronounce but whose need for the skills you can bring and the resources you can muster and share is urgent and as yet unmet.  IAM those distant lands you categorise as ‘third world’ just as I AM the lands which surround you as you read this, those that you deem ‘civilised’.  I AM every map which charts the wonders of terrain and topography, of population and rainfall, of mountain, ocean, heath, moor, desert, forest, city alike.  I AM the ancient places, the genius loci of those spaces you built to hear a play, where your sounds travel up impossible heights down the thousands of years, all made possible by the arcane mysteries of acoustics.  I AM your echo-chamber, your sound-deflector, your voice-projector, the secrets of your heart, your mind, your body, your soul have no hiding places from Me – and if you allow Me, I will help you overhear your self so you may grow with Wisdom.  I AM the time you take to concentrate, to unravel the scrolls, the scribes, the manuals, the poets, to attend to the adventurers’ tales of discovering this world that together, we continue to make full of wonders.  I AM under all your complexities, all your trailing vines and roots which entrap and confuse, as I AM the simplicity of the flower in the field, the lily of the water. I AM the unfurling and the flourishing and the blooming: your unfurling, your flourishing, your blooming.  I AM the recycler of yesterday’s thousands of words you claim are news into containers for the very newness of Life.  I AM the Invitation which demands nothing of you but that you lend Me your ears and pause, to be who I made you l you to be, just long enough to receive the bounties I would pour into them.

gospel 4: overcome with amazement

Mark 5.21-24, 35b-43

I AM with you, remember?  So let go: be overcome by all I AM.  Cease your weeping, I AM Healing.  Cease your commotion, I AM Healing.  Cease your attachment to hopelessness, I AM Healing.  How else will you hear who I AM?  How else will you see who I AM? How else will you recognise the works of wonder I AM?  Peace.  Be Still.  

Now, come with Me and let Me overcome you:

Let Me bring precious gifts from foreign lands to all your newborn, fragile, vulnerable, small, childlike, naked places.  Allow Me to show you the view from the highest of Mountains, then let Me take you out of this troposphere and see all I AM from there.  

Let Me guide you down the mysteries of Time and show you the dead shapes of the monsters you so feared.  Allow Me to hold the hands I made, the hands I AM engraving My Name with yours into each line and wrinkle, so there is no need to hide them from me (remember? I was with you when each bump and mark became your existence, whether you saw Me or not).

Let Me flood you with the colour of clouds and the paint of petals.  Let Me show you how I AM a single water drop ready to fall after the rain, and at the same time how I AM thunderous gallons of water thrown up and splashed into rainbows (remember? I AM with you always).

I AM Song so allow Me to sing through you.  I AM Vision so allow Me to appear through you.  I AM Question so allow Me to be asked by you.  I AM Answer so allow Me to tell My Story by you.  I AM Healing so allow Me to lay My hands on you.  I AM Healing so now your hands are My Emergency Service so allow Me to place them where I AM needed.  I AM Healing so be healed by healing others, be healed by seeing how, with your help, they could be wholed to heal in their turn.

Gaze at all I AM, from the butterfly to the black hole, from the stained-glass window to the world-wide-web.  Be overcome by Me.  Welcome Me in.  

For I AM Healing and I AM Amazing.

gospel 3: Peace. Be Still.

Mark 4.35-41

Do you really not know that I AM With You – always – even to the end of time?  I AM with you  when you feel you are drowning, sinking, perishing.  I AM seeing your fears, and your fear of fear itself.  I AM hearing your shouts, your screams, your silent, desperate cries which all say you are being overwhelmed, that you are just not ‘enough’ to face all your present circumstances.  I AM knowing you think I AM not caring about how it is with you at this moment.  So, hear again: I AM the CareTaker.  I AM the StormWrestler.  I AM the WindCalmer.    I AM the WaveSoother.  I AM all creation and all creation is Me.  I AM asking you to be a StormRider who, at the very centre of the turmoil, still knows I AM Peace, so in your heart you can be still.  Cease your restless crowd-joining, searching for a glimpse of a celebrity to affirm you.  Cease your tears over that you cannot change, over what you think you need, and cannot have.  Cease your warmongering – put down your noisy guns and listen: hear what your perceived enemy has to say and hear their fears echo your fears, only then start speaking, and only from that still place which is where I AM PeaceFull.  Prick up your ears and practice alertness for I AM going to the other side, over there, and I AM asking you to come with Me.  Indeed, you are My vessel, my means of making this journey, and I AM asking you to take me.  Put down your Maps, for I AM Guide and I AM Guidance.  I AM Director and I AM Directions.  Put down your devices for capturing and connecting  and wait.  For I AM DeliveryDriver posting My Surprise through your door and it will be exactly what you need for now.  Put down the burdens you are carrying, cease the tasks you are rushing to fulfil, for all the people you think you have to serve.  Cease your hurrying to the market to buy, acquire, hoard, for I AM Abundance, and there is no possible scarcity in Me.  Cease spending your money on what will not last, on what will harm yourself, injure another, poison your planet.  Stop all this, and you will be able to see who I AM, to perceive where I AM, to understand what I AM wanting you to become.

Come, I AM RockSolid: sit on me, stare and let your gaze rest where it will.

Come, I AM LifeWater: dive into Me, be refreshed and learn how to float.

Come I AM WorldVoyager: cruise with Me, be safe with Me and discover what’s just over there.

Come, I AM here; here is an opportunity to see Me.

Come, be still, be at peace, know I AM.

gospel: scatter, sprout & grow

Mark 4.26-34

All that is comes from all that I AM.  You do not know how My Life begins, or if you can guess at  how, you will never know why I AM Life.  You will all know who I AM differently.  For I AM Creator.  I AM Creation.  You will all hear who I AM differently.  For I AM Storyteller.  I AM the story.  Whatever you can imagine, from the smallest to the greatest thing, I AM.  I AM waiting for you to discover who this I AM is who wants to be with you in every breath, in every act, in every conceivable way.  So come and hear who I AM because I AM longing to co-create with you.  I AM Seed.  I AM Sower.  I AM Nursery.  I AM Incubator.  I AM the Gardener.  I AM the Unfurler.  I AM the Big-Bold-Bloomer.  I AM longing for your flourishing and your flowering.  I AM the Ground of All Being.  I AM Earth.  I AM Compost.  I AM Fertiliser.  I AM the Grower.  I AM the Planter.  I AM the Digger.  I AM the Origin.  I AM Potential.  I AM Energy lying dormant until you scatter Me wherever you go.  I AM Voice.  I AM Echo.  I AM Song.  I AM Tune.  I AM Rhythm.  I AM Note.  I AM the Amplifier.  I AM Radio-Waves, Sound-Waves, Light-Waves.  I AM Satellites.  I AM Cables.  I AM the Transmitter.  I AM the Blank Page.  I AM the Scribe.  I AM the Scribble.  I AM the Message.  I AM the Messenger.  Read who I AM.  Hear the real story of who I AM-with-you.  Disseminate what you learn of Me in all directions, let the winds and the birds of the Spirit take it to all who need to hear it.   I AM the Welcome.  I am the Greeting.  I AM Inclusion.  I AM the Distributor.  I AM the Deliverer.  I AM the Light-Spreader asking you to sow My Light.  I  AM taking root in unlikely and unexpected places.  I AM broadcasting who I AM like ripples – a single flame, a single seed or bean, a single drop of My Waters of Life, and the ripples will fan out.  The consequences of your one small act with Me could be vast!  So get curious about who I AM and where I AM and what I AM doing.  

Come, take flight with Me, fly into Me.

Come, build your nest in My arms.

Come, let My Sun ripen you; let My Moon strengthen you.

Come, let My directions guide you.

Come, speak with Me.

Come, spend time with Me.

Come, cross over into My Wildness.

Come, you will find I AM all Abundance.

gospel 1: near

Mark 1. 12-15

I AM the Ancient of Days who holds a hand over you in the sign of blessing and peace.  I AM in every particle of light, in every hue and tone of colour beyond your naming.  I AM the glorylight at the beginning and end of each day – whether you behold Me or not.  I AM in every beat of your precious heart.  I AM holding you.  I AM in the poets and the prophets and the preachers and the teachers who talk of Wisdom, of Justice, of Mercy, of Love.  I AM an open window beckoning you in to Me, and out to Me, every moment of every day.  I AM in the fresh air you need to blow away your cobwebs, to enlighten your dusty, musty corners.  I AM the Invitation to throw yourself open to Me.  I AM in every tick of Time, adjust Me how you will, play with Me how you might, but your times remain safe in My hands.  I AM in the music, in the triumph of trumpets, in the horn blasts of warning, in the reveille for the dead.  I AM in the eyes of the wild beasts who accompany you, inside and out: those you love and those in your terror you demonise and reject.  I AM in the Earth I ask you to steward, in those rocks you want to break open to build, in the action of muscle and sweat of your labours for the good of all.  I AM in the very ground you touch and tread, I AM the Way you walk.  I AM in the blessing of the stranger, the foreigner, the faithful from all faiths.  I AM in the smile  of the wounded child who needs your succour and your protection.  I AM Sophia, Wisdom, calling in the streets, the Counsellor of Princes and peoples everywhere.  I AM the collector of sacred pollen to feed the earth, I AM the maker of the honey which heals.  I AM near you  – in, through, around, above, below all this – near you in your next breath and beat of your heart.